Post #402 Repost: Breaking News

August 12, 2015 at 8:46 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post #402 Repost: Breaking News

A year ago actor and comedian Robin Williams took his own life due to depression.  Shortly after that, I wrote the following post outlining my own lifelong struggle with depression.  His death brought Depression to the national conversation for a time and there is movement forward in learning and treating the disease.  I felt it was worthwhile to rerun that post.  Feel free to share as you choose.  As always, thanks for reading my blog.

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Today’s post is not about food.  By now, everyone has heard of the death of Robin Williams.  He suffered from depression which led to an addictive personality.  He chose to end his life on Monday, the 11th.  A lot has been said about depression in the past few days, and I hope more will be said in the upcoming days.  Most people are talking about how said it is that he couldn’t reach out for help.  Some are saying how sad that he felt the need to end his life.  A few are talking about how cowardly it was for him to take his life, that he didn’t die of a disease but by choice.  I’d like to share something I’ve only told a few people before.

I’ve battled depression my whole life.  I’ve never been professionally treated for it; I’ve never taken drugs for it, unless you count chocolate; I’ve never had therapy for it apart from long talks with sympathetic friends about other subjects.  Oddly, I also have an optimistic personality and with everything I’ve experienced and read, I manage my depression pretty well.  But every day I have to decide if today is a day that I beat the dragon or the dragon beats me.

Depression isn’t something that makes sense.  It’s not a physical disease, but it can make you hurt physically.  It’s not strictly an emotional disease although it can reduce you to tears in no time flat.  It’s not completely a mental disease, but it will capture your brain in a spiral that sucks your soul down.

I once spent several months forcing myself to get out of bed each day.  All the best advice said tomorrow will be better, so I’d wait until 12:01 and say, “Well, it’s tomorrow, and it’s not any better.”  Then I’d go to sleep in despair.

When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I weighed in at about 130 pounds while standing just shy of 6 ft.  I wasn’t eating enough because eating just seemed pointless.  I would eat only when others were watching me so they wouldn’t know how much I was hurting.

I once wrote a poem I titled “The Color of Loneliness.”  To me, it was indigo, dark and impenetrable.

That’s the deal with depression.  It makes you fell completely helpless.  It makes you feel weak.  It makes you feel empty.  It makes you feel like the entire universe is empty, there is no joy.  It makes you feel “not good enough.”  It doesn’t matter what you know about yourself, or what others tell you about yourself.  The dragon is always there telling you nothing is worth it.  The pain of depression can be overwhelming.  It can engulf you so that all you can see is the dragon and nothing else.

I was going through my ultra religious phase at the time and learning that as far as God was concerned, I was worthless.  Even the lesson “But I love you anyway” got twisted by the dragon to mean the exact opposite of what was intended.  I would huddle in my bedroom for hours at a time just shaking in despair until some obligation would force me to get up and get out.  I put on my social mask and played like everything was perfect in my life, despite the fact that I was broken in ways I thought no one could understand.  Even those people who came close to suspecting were put off by my “You don’t understand.”

Every time I bought myself something new, whether it was a book or a shirt or a boxed pizza kit, the dragon was always there whispering I didn’t deserve it.

Finally, one day, I decided it was time to end the pain.  I don’t remember how I was going to do it.  I tried to get what small affairs I had in order.  There wasn’t much.  I was still young, barely in my twenties, so I had no appreciable debt.  I had even fewer belongings.  Really, all I had to do was decide the date and time, and write the note.

Death, as such, has never scared me.  I’ve always believed that life is terminal; you’re not going to get out of it alive.  But the manner of death has always bothered me because I don’t like pain.  Who does?  Apart from the Marquis de Sade?

So, it came time to write the note.  And that’s where I stopped.  How in hell could I explain this to anyone so they’d understand and not be upset?  I couldn’t.  I tried for days and was left with nothing.  And for the first time in my life, I felt hope.  I felt the dragon go silent.  I started wondering why it was so hard to write that goodbye note, and the only answer I could come up with was that I was here for a reason.  I just had to find that reason.

I still battle the dragon every day, but I’m happy, or fortunate, to say that most days I win.  Once in a great while, the dragon takes hold, but I’m a little wiser to his antics now and can usually shake him off.

Millions of people suffer from depression, clinical or otherwise.  There are thousands of groups in our communities, online or physical, designed to help every facet of society.  One that means the most to me is The Semicolon Project.

http://projectsemicolon.org/

The semicolon is a grammatical device that looks like a comma beneath a period.  It connects two sentence clauses into one sentence.  It can also act as a comma separator in lists where the items are longer than single word.  It means that the author chose not to end the sentence.  I draw one on my left wrist (I’m right handed, so  . . . . ) periodically to remind myself that I chose not to end the sentence, and to help others not to end their sentences.

 

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Ending your sentence, or giving in to the dragon, is not an act of despair or cowardice.  I’ll never attempt to judge another’s pain or their decision regarding it.  I’ll mourn the loss.  I’ll continue teaching and reaching out.  I’ll do what I can to make this place better until I get to the other place.  I simply pray and hope they’re in a better place.

To Robin William, if you know what I’m saying, you gave us laughter, and fun, and tears, and moments of gasping joy.  Thank you and please be at rest.  Your dragon is gone.

With heartfelt gratitude and immeasurable delight, I say again:

Enjoy!

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